New solar panels produce power on both sides
A Bermuda firm is offering “bifacial” solar panels that produce electricity from both their upper and lower surfaces.
Be Solar says the SolarWorld BiSun panels can generate between 10 per cent and 25 per cent more power than conventional panels, helped by the light which bounces back off Bermuda's traditional white roofs.
And the company says it is unconcerned by last month's announcement by Belco that the power utility will reducing the amount it will pay to solar producers for excess electricity put back into the grid.
The bifacial panels are made in Germany and feature transparent sheets between the solar cells, allowing light to pass through.
They come with a 30-year guaranteed energy performance warranty and are claimed to be able to withstand category 5 hurricanes, salt and high humidity.
Belco applied to the Energy Commission on August 15 to change its rates for residential net metering and commercial renewable energy. The rates had been introduced in 2010 with the intention of encouraging customers to adopt solar energy.
The incentive, initially set for 200 customers, ultimately gained 325 participants by August 15, when Belco proposed switching to a compensation of “avoided cost” for new installations — mainly covering the cost of fuel.
Based on the August fuel adjustment rate, Belco said solar producers would receive 17.36 cents per kilowatt hour for their excess — roughly half the price paid under the previous incentive scheme. The scheme's existing members will continue to receive the higher rate, but newcomers will receive the new “avoided cost” rate.
Grant Gibbons, the Energy Minister, has convened a Commission of Inquiry to consider the matter.
“The Belco announcement was a shock because it came out of the blue,” Stratton Hatfield, director of development for Be Solar said. “But what they are saying goes well with our philosophy. We always design systems to match the consumption of the property.
“The change is only a problem for those with oversized systems who are looking to make money from excess production.”
The bifacial panels, which have silver-coloured frames, were perfect for Bermuda's white roofs, he added, and their transparency allowed light to pass through the top side, and then bounce back off the roof, generating electricity from the top and rear surfaces.
Be Solar is an 81-year-old alternative energy firm, whose principals include Travis Burland, engineering and sales director, and Stuart Kriendler, managing director.